The Human Face of Climate Change – World Bank

by | Nov 7, 2022 | Climate Change

For Haliya Al-Jalal, a mother of six in Al-Adn, Yemen, walking long distances to collect drinking water was a daily chore she shared with her family. “Fetching water from the stream caused us great hardship,” she said. “Many children dropped out of school to devote themselves to this task every day.” A simple rainwater harvesting scheme now alleviates some of that burden. Yet in Yemen, where climate change threatens to make rainfall even scarcer and droughts more common, women like Haliya Al-Jalal and people in countless rural communities remain vulnerable. Children face an uncertain future where dropping out of school may be the tradeoff for survival.

Droughts, severe storms, deadly heat waves. These terrifying scenes caused by the climate crisis have become all too common across the globe.  Hidden behind these extreme weather events, climate change is eroding human capital – the health, knowledge and skills that people need to realize their full potential – hitting the poor and vulnerable hardest.  As Halilya Al-Jalal’s experience makes clear, there is a very human face to climate change. And we must not forget it.

Across all ages, climate is hurting people’s well-being and potential. Extreme heat, for example, increases hospitalization during pregnancy and chronic and acute malnutrition in early childhood. Extreme heat is also directly linked to lower learning outcomes such as test scores, and in 2021 resulted in an estimated global loss of 470 billion work hours among working adults.  

Poor people in particular are exposed to higher risks, as they often live in low-quality housing, have low or no savings, and lack access to support systems such as health care. World Bank analysis shows that climate change has a large and disproportionate impact on poverty and economic opportunities, especially for the most vulnerable members of society. 

But people are not passive victims. It is people who will drive the necessary innovations and adaptations to alleviate the impacts of climate change everywhere.

Investing in human capital—education, nutrition, health, and safety nets in difficult times – is the best way for countries to build resilience to climate shocks, improve people’s ability to adapt to a changing climate, and prevent further erosion of human capital. With focused investments a …

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